What's the treatment for esophageal cancer?
Treatment for esophageal cancer depends on a number of factors, including the size, location, and extent of the tumor, and the general health of the patient. Patients are often treated by a team of specialists, which may include a gastroenterologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the digestive system), surgeon (a doctor who specializes in removing or repairing parts of the body), medical oncologist (a doctor who specializes in treating cancer), and radiation
oncologist (a doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer). Because cancer treatment may make the mouth sensitive and at risk for infection, doctors often advise patients with esophageal cancer to see a dentist for a dental exam and treatment before cancer treatment begins. Many different treatments and combinations of treatments may be used to control the cancer and/or to improve the patient's quality of life by reducing symptoms.
Surgery is the most common treatment for esophageal cancer. Usually, the surgeon removes the tumor along with all or a portion of the esophagus, nearby lymph nodes, and other tissue in the area. (An operation to remove the esophagus is called an esophagectomy.) The surgeon connects the remaining healthy part of the esophagus to the stomach so the patient is still able to swallow. Sometimes, a plastic tube or part of the intestine is used to make the connection. The surgeon may also widen the opening between the stomach and the small intestine to allow stomach contents to pass more easily into the small intestine. Sometimes surgery is done after other treatment is finished.
Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, involves the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy affects cancer cells in the treated area only. The radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external radiation) or from radioactive materials placed in or near the tumor (internal radiation). A plastic tube may be inserted into the esophagus to keep it open during radiation therapy. This procedure is called intraluminal intubation and dilation. Radiation therapy may be used alone or combined with chemotherapy as primary treatment instead of surgery, especially if the size or location of the tumor would make an operation difficult. Doctors may also combine radiation therapy with chemotherapy to shrink the tumor before surgery. Even if the tumor cannot be removed by surgery or destroyed entirely by radiation therapy, radiation therapy can often help relieve pain and make swallowing easier
Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells. The anticancer drugs used to treat esophageal cancer travel throughout the body. Anticancer drugs used to treat esophageal cancer are usually given by injection into a vein (IV). Chemotherapy may be combined with radiation therapy as primary treatment (instead of surgery) or to shrink the tumor before surgery.
Laser therapy is the use of high-intensity light to destroy tumor cells. Laser therapy affects the cells only in the treated area. The doctor may use laser therapy to destroy cancerous tissue and relieve a blockage in the esophagus when the cancer cannot be removed by surgery. The relief of a blockage can help to reduce symptoms, especially swallowing problems.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT), a type of laser therapy, involves the use of drugs that are absorbed by cancer cells; when exposed to a special light, the drugs become active and destroy the cancer cells. The doctor may use PDT to relieve symptoms of esophageal cancer such as difficulty swallowing.
More information on esophageal cancer
What is esophageal cancer? - Esophageal cancer is a malignancy that develops in tissues lining the hollow, muscular canal. Cancer of the esophagus is also called esophageal cancer.
What causes esophageal cancer? - Esophageal cancer can result after many years of irritation to the esophagus. The use of both alcohol and tobacco significantly increase risk.
What're the risk factors for esophageal cancer? - People who smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, and drink alcohol are at a higher risk for this cancer. Risk factors for esophageal cancer include age, sex, alcohol use.
What're symptoms of cancer of the esophagus? - Early-stage esophageal cancer may have no symptoms. Dysphagia is the most common symptom. Spread to bones may cause pain.
How is esophageal cancer diagnosed? - A barium swallow is usually the first test performed on a patient whose symptoms suggest esophageal cancer.
What're the stages of esophageal cancer? - Staging esophageal cancer is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread. Knowing the stage of the disease helps the doctor plan treatment.
What's the treatment for esophageal cancer? - Treatment for esophageal cancer depends on a number of factors, including the size, location, and extent of the tumor, and the general health of the patient.
How to prevent esophageal cancer? - The best way to prevent esophageal cancer is to avoid tobacco and alcohol. Eating more fruits and vegetables.